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July 11, 2019

The differences between hyper/hypothyroidism

About 20 million people in the U.S. have thyroid disease

Adult Health Thyroid
Hashimoto_thyroiditis 07112019 Librepath /CC BY-SA 3.0

Micrograph showing a thyroid gland with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease which gradually destroys the endocrine gland.

The thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland in the lower part of your neck, may be small, but it can pack quite a punch to your body when not working properly.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, almost 20 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with a thyroid disease, with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism being the two most common.

Why is a properly functioning thyroid so important? Because it regulates your metabolism and your body’s sensitivity to heat and cold through the hormones it secretes – T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine).

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If your thyroid gland does not produce enough of these hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism is the result. Low levels of these hormones can lead to fatigue, depression, unexplained weight gain and bouts of forgetfulness. You may also feel cold all the time. Your hair and skin can become dry and coarse.

When your thyroid is producing too much of the hormones, it is called hyperthyroidism. The result can be anxious feelings and trouble with sleep. Also, you may easily get overheated and experience unexplained weight loss. Muscle weakness and vision problems can also occur.

A woman’s normal menstrual cycle is often impacted as well. Heavier periods are common with hypothyroidism, while lighter, irregular periods are a symptom of hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism can be caused by thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a hereditary autoimmune disorder, and iodine deficiency. Some babies are born with a thyroid gland that doesn’t work properly. If not treated, it can lead to physical and mental development problems.

Hyperthyroidism is often caused by Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the entire gland is overactive, as well as thyroiditis, or too much iodine in your system.

The Mayo Clinic says that “some of the most serious complications of hyperthyroidism involve the heart. These include a rapid heart rate, a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation that increases your risk of stroke, and congestive heart failure – a condition in which your heart can’t circulate enough blood to meet your body’s needs.”

The best way to determine if your thyroid is responsible for you feeling unwell is to have your doctor conduct blood work. Schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you are worried about your thyroid.

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